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  1. Activity Theory & Engeström Dr Daisy Mwanza-Simwami Institute of Educational Technology The Open University 2nd February, 2012 Institute of Educational Technology

  2. Contents • What is Activity Theory • Basic Principles of Activity Theory – Kaptelinin • Origins of Activity Theory • Vygotsky – Basic Model of human activity • Leont’ev – The Concept of Activity • Hierarchical Model of human activity • Engeström – Expanded Model of human activity • The Activity Triangle System – Engeström • Etc • References Institute of Educational Technology

  3. What is Activity Theory? “Activity Theory (AT) is philosophical and cross-disciplinary framework for studying different forms of human practices as developmental processes, with both individual and social levels interlinked at the same time (Kuutti in Nardi 1996, page 25).” Explanation • AT is a framework from which several theories and methods cab be developed • The basic unit of analysis is human activity • Human activity continuously develop and redevelop over a period of time • Human activity is developed and transformed as a result of influences from the context in which it is carried out Institute of Educational Technology

  4. Origins of Activity Theory AT ideas are grounded in Vygotsky’s theorising about: the social-cultural development of human mind (developmental studies of higher mental functioning) (see Vygotsky, 1978; Leont’ev, 1978 & 1981) Vygotsky's believed that child development and the development of all human beings happens as a result of interactions between people and their social environment Vygotsky (1978) also conceptualised the concept of tool mediation Vygotsky argued that human beings’ interactions with objects of their environment are not direct but mediated through the use of tools and signs Institute of Educational Technology

  5. Basic Model of Human Activity - Vygotsky Vygotsky’s model of human activity (Vygotsky, 1930/1981; 1978; 1981) Mediator (Tool) Subject Object Institute of Educational Technology

  6. Basic Principles of Activity Theory - Kaptelinin Kaptelinin (in Nardi, 1996.pp.107-110; Unity of consciousness and activity Object-orientation Tool mediation Internalisation and Externalisation The principle of Historical Development Context Institute of Educational Technology

  7. The Concept of Activity Theory- Leont’ev Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) or Activity Theory (AT) was conceptualised by A.N. Leont’ev, (see Leont’ev, 1978 & 1981) – a student of Vygotsky Leont’ev’s distinguishes between ‘collective’ activity and ‘individual’ activity According to Leont’ev, human activity is a dynamic and self-regulating system that has a structure (see the hierarchical levels of activity in Leont’ev, 1978) Institute of Educational Technology

  8. Hierarchical Model of Human Activity – Leont’ev Leont’ev’s model of human activity showing the three levels of operation, namely: Activity, Action level, & Operations level Activity Motives Goals Actions Operations Conditions Institute of Educational Technology

  9. The Concept of Activity Theory Leont’ev’s model of human activity, isolates a single individual’s activity from the collective activity system and introduces a structure to represent human activity. He argued that human activity is motivated towards e the fulfilment of objectives that are achieved by engaging in practical activities mediated through both physical and mental actions directed towards the achievement of conscious goals. Meanwhile, actions are satisfied through specific operations, that are controlled by conditions of execution. Leont’ev’s model helps to understand the interrelatedness of activities at various levels Institute of Educational Technology

  10. The Activity Theory and Engeström Conceptualised the Theory of Expansive Learning Inspired by the works of both Vygotsky and Leont’ev, Engeström (1987) developed the expanded model of human activity to include the: subjects, rules & regulations, community, division of labour & outcome while developing his theory of Expansive Learning Model portrays the collaborative and collective nature of human activity Institute of Educational Technology

  11. Expanded model of human activity Activity Triangle System (Engeström, 1987) Tools Transformation Subjects Object Outcomes Process Rules Community Division of Labour Institute of Educational Technology

  12. The Activity Triangle System - Engeström Human activities are social and cultural practices whose development and transformations are influenced by the: Context or environment in which activity is carried out Subjects or relationship of those involved in activity Tools or artefacts that mediate human activity Rules and Regulations that exist in the environment in which activity is carried out Roles or Division of labour - variations in responsibilities of those carrying out the various tasks that constitute activities carried out Motives or Objectives of those involved in carrying out activities (i.e. what they want to achieve) Transforming the object into an outcome motivates the existence of an activity Institute of Educational Technology

  13. Activity theory – Key points Focus on understanding: Motives of those involved in activity Relationships that exist amongst those involved in activity The historical development of activity Implicit and explicit social practices of the context in which activity is carried out Issues surrounding the development and use of tools to support activity Identify contradictions that exist in activity The operational structure of an activity Institute of Educational Technology

  14. Working with Activity Theory in Teaching Can be used to enrichexisting practices e.g. AT driven assessment techniques will be more focused on analysing methods used in problem solving than determining the accuracy of results or final marks AT concept of historical development can be used to influence how we interpret the systematic advancement observed in learning achievement AT notion of contradictions can be used to identify problems that emerge in learning activity (see Engeström in his Theory of Expansive Learning) Engeström - Learning what is not yet known Institute of Educational Technology

  15. Working with Activity Theory in Research You can work with a single basic principle of AT or use all of them AT can be used to enrich existing research techniques such as: thematic analysis, questionnaires, interviews, observations, etc AT can be used to investigate the change is practices AT can be used to investigate the problems or contradictions in activity Institute of Educational Technology

  16. Activity Theory - Disadvantages Need to understand the theory Long timeframe of research Lack of universal methods Difficult to make future predictions in activity transitions when using AT due to emphasis on understanding the historical development of human activity Institute of Educational Technology

  17. Activity Theory - Example applications Interventionist research methods – Engeström's Research Centre, University of Helsinki, Finland Activity Checklist –MacCaulay,et al., 1998 & in Kaptelinin, et al., 2006 AODM – Mwanza, 2002 & 2011 Used to investigate E-Learning in a USA high school – Greenhow et al., 2009 in iJCSCL AODM used to investigate mobile learning in informal settings – Mwanza-Simwami, 2010 – Book Chapter in Vavoula, G., et al., 2010) Used to investigate learning in Social Networking (Hill & Mwanza-Simwami, 2012 upcoming) Institute of Educational Technology

  18. Activity Theory Research Methods Activity-Oriented Design Method (AODM, Mwanza, 2011) New book publication available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Activity-Oriented-Design-Method-AODM-research/dp/3847309226/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327507576&sr=8-1 Works with all type of research methods e.g. qualitative and quantitative Institute of Educational Technology

  19. References • Engeström, Y., (1987). “Learning by Expanding: An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research.” Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit Oy, Finland. • Greenhow C, & Belbas B. (2007), Using activity-oriented design methods to study collaborative knowledge-building in e-learning courses within higher education. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (2) 363-391. • Kaptelinin, V., (1996). “Activity Theory: Implications for Human-Computer Interaction.” In Nardi, B.A., (1996) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction, MIT,Massachusetts, USA. • Kaptelinin, V., & Nardi, B. (2006). Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Institute of Educational Technology

  20. References Leont’ev, A.N, (1978). “Activity, Consciousness, and Personality.” Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Leont’ev, A.N, (1981), “The Problem of Activity in Psychology.” In Wertsch, J.V., (1981)(Ed), The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology: An Introduction. M.E. Sharpe, Inc New York, USA. Mwanza, D., (2011) “Towards an Activity-Oriented Design Method (AODM) for HCI Research and Practice”. LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG, Germany, ISBN: 978-3-8473-0922-2 Mwanza-Simwami, D., (2009), Using activity-oriented design methods (AODM) to investigate mobile learning. In Vavoula, G; Pachler, N, and, Kukulska-Hulme, A (eds). Researching Mobile Learning: Frameworks, tools and research design. Oxford: UK: Peter Lang Verlag, pp. 97 – 122. Nardi, B.A., (1996) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction, MIT,Massachusetts, USA. Institute of Educational Technology

  21. References • Vygotsky, L.S, (1978). “Mind in Society - The Development of Higher Psychological Processes.” In Michael Cole, Vera John-Steiner, Sylvia Scribner, and Ellen Souberman (Eds), Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, USA. • Vygotsky, LS, (1930/1981). “The development of higher psychological functions (in Russia).” In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.) Soviet Activity Theory. M.E. Sharpe, Inc New York, USA. • Vygotsky, L.S, (1981). “The genesis of higher mental functions.” In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.). The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology: An Introduction. M.E. Sharpe, Inc New York, USA. Institute of Educational Technology